FRO Decision: K.E.Z. v. J.H. Upheld by Appellate Court (A-3172-21, Aug 8, 2023)

K.E.Z. v. J.H.

           Docket No. A-3172-21

Decided August 8, 2023

Submitted by New Jersey Domestic Violence Lawyer, Jeffrey Hark.

In a recent unpublished opinion, the Appellate Court of New Jersey decided defendant’s appeal from a final restraining order (FRO) entered against him pursuant to the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (PDVA), in favor of plaintiff, his former girlfriend.

In May 2022, the trial court conducted a one-day trial where both parties were represented by counsel. Neither party introduced any items into evidence. Defendant stipulated he was in a dating relationship with the plaintiff and that he committed the predicate act of stalking when he placed a GPS tracking device on plaintiff’s vehicle. The sole issue for determination was whether plaintiff required the protection of an FRO to protect her from immediate danger and/or future acts of domestic violence.

Plaintiff testified the parties dated for four months and that she ended the relationship when she became romantically involved with another man. She indicated during her testimony that defendant, who was a police officer, became clingy and would overstep her boundaries. Around a month after plaintiff permitted defendant to drop off a gift he had gotten for her, plaintiff located a GPS device near the rear camera of her car. After asking defendant if he had put the device on her car, he admitted he had. Plaintiff notified the police about the tracking device, and defendant was arrested for stalking in January 2022.

After learning defendant was negotiating with the prosecutor about being reinstated to active-duty status although he would still not be permitted to contact her, plaintiff testified that she still felt extremely unsafe, scared for her life, and that no one was on her side. She then filed a domestic violence complaint and requested a temporary restraining order (TRO). Plaintiff testified she wanted an FRO even though defendant promised to never contact her again because he lied to her about when and where he actually installed the GPS tracking device on her car (at the hospital parking lot where she works), he knew where she lived, where she worked, and she believed defendant was completely obsessed with her. Defendant testified he believed plaintiff was cheating on him and he’d be able to figure out if she was or not by installing the GPS device on her vehicle.

The trial court then analyzed the only issue in this matter, whether the issuance of a FRO is necessary to prevent immediate danger to the victim or further abuse under the second prong of Silver v. Silver, 387 N.J. Super. 112, 127 (App. Div. 2006). The trial court determined that an FRO was in fact necessary to protect plaintiff from any future acts of domestic violence given the efforts defendant undertook to place the GPS tracking device, “his willingness to allow it to remain there,” and defendant’s ability to track plaintiff’s every move for over two months. The trial judge felt that if he did not grant an FRO, the defendant may have another lapse in judgement and track plaintiff again. Defendant subsequently appealed.

On appeal, defendant contended that the Family Part judge erred in finding an FRO was necessary to prevent immediate danger to the victim or further abuse pursuant to the second prong of the test adopted in Silver. Ultimately, the Appellate Court found no basis to disturb the factual findings or legal conclusions of the trial judge and affirmed his decision. The court articulated that the trial judge’s finding that plaintiff needs an FRO is supported by defendant’s admission and the judge’s finding that defendant placed a GPS tracking device on plaintiff’s car allowing him to know where she was at all hours of the day just before and after their breakup. The GPS was hidden and would not have been discovered had plaintiff not had her car serviced. Finally, the court determined that the trial judge’s finding that a FRO was necessary to protect plaintiff was adequate and supported by his finding that plaintiff gave very credible testimony.

At Hark & Hark, we are experienced attorneys who represent clients for appeals in Superior Court for issues like the previously discussed case pertaining to FRO trials. We work hard to ensure that our clients receive exceptional representation in order for them to receive the most favorable outcome in their case as a result.

We offer payment plan options to clients financially incapable of providing full payment upfront. If you are facing a similar situation to that of either party in this case, please call us to discuss the matter. At Hark & Hark, we represent clients for any case in any county in New Jersey including Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County, Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County, Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, and Warren County and any town including Audubon, Gloucester City, Oaklyn, Audubon Park, Gloucester Township, Pennsauken, Barrington, Haddon Heights, Pine Hill, Bellmawr, Haddon Township, Pine Valley, Berlin Borough, Haddonfield, Runnemede, Berlin Township, Hi-Nella, Somerdale, Brooklawn, Laurel Springs, Stratford, Camden, Lawnside, Voorhees, Cherry Hill, Lindenwold, Waterford, Chesilhurst, Magnolia, Winslow, Clementon, Merchantville, Woodlynne, Collingswood, Mt. Ephraim, and Gibbsboro.


Criminal Civil Lawyer

Jeffrey Hark is a New Jersey Civil and Criminal Lawyer.

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